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rss Subscribe to Emma Goto's RSS Feed Emma is an AST for ICT from Kings Copse Primary School, Hampshire. She is currently teaching in EYFS and has also taught in KS1 for several years.

Learning Platforms In Infant Schools - A Summary of Research

Introduction


Over the last 7 years as an Advanced Skills Teacher in Hampshire I have had the privilege to work with a wide range of schools on ICT related projects. I have always been a supporter of the use of technology within the classroom but only where it has a significant positive impact on children's learning. While working as one of Hampshire's Learning Platform Consultants to develop school's use of the Wizkid learning platform people sometimes voiced concerns to me about using learning platforms with their younger learners. As a Key Stage One and Early Years Foundation Stage Practitioner this concerned me. Through analysis of Hampshire's Wizkid usage statistics I noticed that use in Infant Schools was less widespread than use in Junior Schools or Primary Schools.  This raised some interesting questions: Why was uptake slower in these schools? Could use of this technology have a positive impact on young children's learning? Were there any factors regarding how this technology was being implemented that had an impact on how much uptake there was in Infant Schools? At this time I was studying to achieve an MAed in Professional Enquiry at the University of Winchester. Therefore when I was thinking about an area of research for my dissertation this was a subject I was keen to research.

 

The Research


The initial problem for me was how to explore this, as in my role at the time I was not school based. Therefore I was not actually using this technology in the classroom with the children, but rather, supporting teachers in schools across Hampshire to do so. I felt that there were likely to be a wide range of reasons why some schools weren't using this technology. Instead of researching in these schools it seemed more sensible to explore the use of the learning platform in schools that were using it with the children. Therefore my research was a case study within three infant schools that were using the learning platform with their pupils. I identified three research questions to focus my enquiry. These questions were:

 

  • What are some of the factors that have contributed to these Infant Schools getting their staff and pupils using the learning platform so much?
  • How is the learning platform being used in these Infant Schools?
  • What impact is the use of a learning platform having on children's learning in these Infant Schools?

 

The data for my research was obtained using semi-structured interviews and observations. In each school I interviewed those leading the implementation of the learning platform, members of the school leadership team, teachers and pupils. I observed the learning platform being used and made observations within the learning platform itself looking at the kind of activities that were being provided and how they were organised.

 

Key findings


Question 1 - What are some of the factors that have contributed to these Infant Schools getting their staff and pupils using the learning platform so much?

 

One common feature in each school was the presence of a key person or key people leading the implementation and displaying real enthusiasm for the learning platform. It is also notable that in each case at least one of the chosen leaders was a member of the senior management team. This is likely to have been an enabling factor meaning they were able to drive the implementation more effectively than would have been possible for a less senior member of staff.

 

The evidence also suggested that the positive approach of other staff within the schools was likely to have been significant.

 

Question 2 - How is the learning platform being used in these Infant Schools?

 

Evidence for this question was largely obtained by observation within each of the school's learning platforms. While there was a degree of overlap there was also variation in how it was being used between the different schools.  In all schools the learning platform was being used to provide access to learning resources and content but in some school the tools for collaboration were being used widely to enable learners to communicate and work with others.

 

 




Observation

School A

School B

School C

Uses that provide content or independent learning tasks

 

 

 

Class page used to share curriculum information such as what will be learned during the current term in different curriculum subjects.

 

 

Use of embedded or uploaded video content to provide information.

Links provided to external websites that provide information about topics or subjects being learned about.

Links provided to games or activities on external websites that can be used to practise skills.

Use of Galleries to share images.

Games created within the learning platform to reinforce current learning or practice basic skills.

 

Sharing of uploaded files such as documents or presentations.

Use of the Test facility to provide quizzes to practice and assess basic skills and provide feedback to learners.

 

 

Use of the Assignment tool to create independent learning tasks.

 

 

Uses that enable collaboration and communication

 

 

 

Use of comment and rating facility within Galleries to encourage children to discuss what they have observed or learned.

 

Discussion forums being used to explore children's knowledge, understanding or learning on a given topic or theme.

 

Discussion forums used to enable discussion about factors impacting on the children and their life at school.

 

 

Discussion forums used to enable communication between key groups such as between children and governors.

 

 

Discussion forums used to enable communication within groups formed because of interest or common practices e.g. communication between members of the gardening club.

 

 

Discussion forums used to set a challenge or initiate some learning e.g. messages from Barnaby Bear asking for the children's help to find appropriate hats to wear in different countries.

 

 

Use of the Voting tool to generate data or make a decision about an aspect of school life.

 

Organisational factors

 

 

 

Activities mainly organised around topics or themes.

 

Activities mainly organised around curriculum subjects.

 

 

Areas set up for special interest groups e.g. singing club

 

 

Areas set up for cross school collaboration e.g. to aid transition.

 

 

Strategies used to make the learning platform more accessible to emergent readers.

 

 

 

Images used to create buttons or launch links.

 

 

Use of uploaded sound files to provide information to support emergent readers to access the learning platform e.g. used to provide instructions for a task within the learning platform.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Question 3 - What impact is the use of a learning platform having on children's learning in these Infant Schools?

 

In each school there was evidence that the learning platform was being used outside of school and this was often alongside a parent. Some children spoke about conversations they had had with parents, about what they were learning, whilst using the learning platform. This suggested that it was helping to increase parental engagement with the children's learning at school. This was a key finding as there is wealth of research that suggests a strong link between parental engagement with children's learning and children's level of achievement.  

 

Many of the key stakeholders talked about learning being more fun or engaging when the learning platform was used. However in many of the examples cited the learning activity they were referring to was an activity that did not actually require a learning platform, such as a link to a video or game on an external website. However it seems that by using the learning platform teachers can provide easy access to a wide range of relevant sites and activities which may lead to increased use of ICT tools to support learning. The evidence in this research suggests that this access to e-learning resources via the learning platform in these schools is helping to provide activities that learners enjoy and therefore this may be enhancing learner engagement.

 

In all three schools the learning platform was being used to facilitate access to knowledge and information when the learner wants it. In other words it was allowing learners to follow their own independent learning pathways. This supports a constructivist approach and is likely to make the learning more personalised or tailored to the individual learner.

 

There was also evidence that in one or more schools there was an impact on children's ICT skills, their learning of key facts such as number bonds and their development of certain literacy skills.

 

Conclusions


My research showed that in each of the school's the use of this technology was having a positive impact on aspects of children's learning. I was particularly excited about the impact it was found to have on parental engagement with their child's learning and as a result of this research I have deepened my commitment to using ICT systems and tools, such as learning platforms, to strengthen the engagement of parents with their child's learning.

 

This was small scale case study research looking at impact in three individual infant schools over a fairly short time period. We must therefore be cautious about making sweeping generalisations. However this shows that it is possible for effective use of a learning platform to have a positive impact in some infant schools.  All of these schools were using the Sudywiz learning platform (branded as Wizkid in Hampshire). However as a learning platform is simply a collection of online tools that can be used to support learning it would seem likely that where the Studywiz learning platform can be used effectively to have a positive impact on young children's learning so could other learning platforms or VLEs.

 

If you are interested in reading this research in greater detail the full dissertation can be found at https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B5RYhuKkh3OHejVlbXdUNFZDTjA

 

This research would not have been possible if it weren't for the children and staff at the three case study schools to whom I am extremely grateful.